2007 Reaffirmation Teams
188.8.131.52 - 2007 Reaffirmation Teams
The institution identifies expected outcomes, assesses whether it achieves these outcomes, and provides evidence of improvement based on analysis of the results in each of the following areas: research, if appropriate to the mission of the institution
The mission statement for The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) directly addresses the research mission of UT Dallas: “The University of Texas at Dallas serves the Metroplex and the State of Texas as a global leader in innovative, high quality science, engineering, and business education and research. The University is committed to (1) producing engaged graduates, prepared for life, work, and leadership in a constantly changing world, (2) advancing excellent educational and research programs in the natural and social sciences, engineering and technology, management, and the liberal, creative, and practical arts, and (3) transforming ideas into actions that directly benefit the personal, economic, social, and cultural lives of the citizens of Texas .” With regard to research, the university identifies expected outcomes, annually assesses whether those outcomes have been achieved, and uses the assessments to improve both the education and the research at the university.Research and the Strategic Plan
UT Dallas’ strategic plan  defines the institution that UT Dallas aspires to be, states its vision and mission, identifies its goals, lays out the strategies necessary to achieve these goals, spells out an implementation plan, and identifies measures of progress. The following goals specifically relate to the university’s research mission:
UT Dallas aspires to be:
- A first-rank public research university with focused centers of excellence, prepared to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing, technology-driven global society.
- A global force in innovative, transdisciplinary research and education in emerging areas of technology, science, and learning .
These goals are related to several of the strategic initiatives also identified in the strategic plan. These initiatives and related action items include:
- Initiative One: Discovering Tomorrow’s Inventions Today
- Action 1.1 - Research Enterprise Initiative
- Action 1.2 - The BioWorld
- Action 1.3 - Nanotechnology
- Initiative Three: Managing Change in a Constantly Changing Society
- Action 3.2 - Innovative Centers and Institutes
- Initiative Four: Securing the Safety of the Future
- Action 4.1 - National and Global Security
- Action 4.2 - Energy and the Environment
- Initiative Five: Improving the Health and Quality of Life of Individuals and Society
- Action 5.1 - Life Science Health Collaborations
- Action 5.2 - Enhanced Quality of Life
The purpose of these initiatives is “to transform UTD into a dynamic, intellectual, research force that has direct and powerful impact on the quality of the intellectual, cultural, physical, and economic life of Dallas’ citizens as well as the citizens of the world .” These initiatives and action items transcend traditional disciplines, schools, and departments, and each of the initiatives involves multiple programs. To fully realize the initiatives, each university unit links its program objectives to the initiatives in the strategic plan as part of the annual assessment process . This linkage (or alignment) allows the university not only to track but also to measure its progress to realizing the initiatives. Additional information regarding the assessment process is included in the response to Principle 184.108.40.206 .
UT Dallas’ strategic plan also identifies quantitative targets associated with the plan’s research-related goals and initiatives:
- Imperative 1 - Double faculty size
- five-year goal - 500 tenure/tenure track faculty
- 10-year goal - 700 tenure/tenure track faculty
- 20 year goal - 800 tenure/tenure track faculty
- Imperative 3 - More than double research funding
- $60 million in five years
- $100 million in ten years
- Imperative 6 - Increase number of PhD’s granted
- five-year goal - 200 doctoral degrees awarded annually
- 10-year goal - 300 doctoral degrees awarded annually
These targets are measured annually, and the president reports the progress in his annual state of the university address.
In spring 2007, the goals were adjusted as the targeted areas of growth were further delineated. In April 2004, the president met with the deans and his executive staff to discuss ways to achieve the goals, and in May 2004, he presented the Academic Senate and the university at large with an implementation plan that identifies responsible university officials for each initiative and outlines the costs for the initiatives and how those costs will be paid . The implementation plan also identifies eight “points of excellence” which will be targeted for continued improvement:
- Callier Center for Communication Disorders 
- Center for BrainHealth® 
- Center for Space Sciences 
- CyberSecurity Research Center 
- Human Language Technology Research Institute 
- Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship 
- NanoTech Institute 
- Program of Arts and Technology 
The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost is charged with monitoring the achievements of these institutes, centers, and programs and assists them in achieving their missions.
Although relatively new, the strategic plan has resulted in some dramatic improvements at UT Dallas. In response to imperatives one and three and initiative one, the nanoelectronics initiative has sought to attract and retain high quality researchers . The $30 million initiative is equally supported by Texas industries, The University of Texas System (UT System), and the state of Texas. The Board of Regents of the UT System has already approved $10 million for funding facilities, labs and capital equipment for eight senior faculty members. Additional startup support-including salary, additional equipment and operations support-will be funded through a research superiority grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF). “Top talent” in the field of nanoelectronics is being recruited for research/faculty appointments to UT Dallas as well as sister institutions UT Arlington and UT Austin . One faculty member has been hired so far; he will start January 2008 .
Another improvement as a result of the strategic plan is increased support for writing research proposals. In response to imperative three of the strategic plan, the Office of the Vice President for Research through its Office of Sponsored Projects has developed a new service to support faculty members submitting proposals for external research funding. The School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) piloted the program, and it will be made available to the entire campus in 2008 . The process is intended to help improve the quality of proposals submitted by UT Dallas researchers to external agencies and by extension improve the likelihood that proposals are funded. Proposals will be reviewed for structure and content by peers and external consultants who will provide feedback and suggestions to the proposal author for her/his consideration. The metrics to monitor the service’s success will include the number of proposals submitted for review, the number of reviewed proposals which are funded versus non-reviewed proposals which are funded, and a faculty survey that will evaluate the process.Data Collection
UT Dallas’ research enterprise extends beyond the strategic plan. Several offices on campus gather, track, and report metrics related to research. The Office of the Vice President for Research reviews these metrics throughout the year for a regular overview of the research accomplishments on the campus.
The Office of Sponsored Projects  maintains records on the amount of research funding received by the university. The office also maintains records of the number of research proposals submitted by faculty members and the number of awards received. Spreadsheets containing the proposals submitted and the awards received are included in the supporting documents below . The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost  maintains statistics on the number of faculty members and their tenure level and oversees promotion and tenure. Policy Memorandum 75-III.22-3, General Standards and Procedures: Faculty Promotion, Reappointment, and Tenure , sets forth the criteria for promotion and tenure with regard to research. Additionally, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost is the repository of the faculty annual reports which discuss the research accomplished by the faculty in the previous years and the plans for research for the coming year . These reports are used to produce the Faculty Achievements book that the office produces annually  . The Office of Finance  monitors research expenditures for reporting to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) . A sample report is supplied in the supporting documents . Finally, the Office of Strategic Planning and Analysis  produces two annual accountability reports, one for the UT System and the other for the THECB. These reports contain benchmarking data and track the research achievements at UT Dallas . The reports also contain a list of values, goals, and priorities that set the metrics for the benchmarking in order to establish a roadmap for improvement    .
The operations of each of these offices are monitored and assessed using UT Dallas’ assessment tool, AT6 . AT6 allows the offices to capture, manage, archive, and track the research efforts at UT Dallas as well as analyze the data in order to improve research at the university. The various offices’ objectives are generated by their mission statements, which are entered, along with an assessment plan, into AT6 . The plans are reviewed annually by the units and updated in light of the findings in the annual assessment reports . The reports not only include measurements and analyses but also evidence of improvement. Sample reports for each office are included in the supporting documents   .
The information gathered from these offices has spurred several new programs:
- To help researchers find grant funding opportunities, the Office of Sponsored Projects offers researchers training on SPINPlus , a search tool that provides up-to-date information on current national and international government and private funding sources  ;
- To assist researchers in strengthening their grants, the Office of Sponsored Projects has begun grammar and writing editing services for researchers; and
- To encourage collaboration between sister institutions, the university has provided seed funding for research collaborations with the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center as part of a limited and competitive proposal process .
UT Dallas has an established committee system designed to give the administration an opportunity to solicit advice and support from faculty members and community representatives regarding research and intellectual property. Additionally, these committees provide oversight of the research functions of the university. Some of those committees include the Intellectual Property Advisory Committee, consisting of faculty members and outside intellectual property attorneys , the Advisory Committee on Research, which works on long term research planning and is concerned with the “interface between faculty and the administration relating to pre-award and post-award services ,” the University Research Integrity Committee , which is responsible with promoting “faithful adherence to high ethical standards” and addressing misconduct in research and conflicts of interests, and finally, the Economic Development Committee, a subcommittee of the president’s development board  that works with the vice president for research and economic development to promote research at UT Dallas.
The discussions and analyses that began at the meetings of these committees have transformed into new policies and programs on campus. For example, comments from meetings of the Intellectual Property Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee on Research, and the Economic Development Committee have prompted the Office of Technology Transfer to reconfigure how intellectual property questionnaires are handled by the office. Similarly, comments from the Economic Development Committee helped start the first university-wide review of all the intellectual property on campus and its status.Student Research
Research at UT Dallas is not confined to funded research by faculty. UT Dallas maintains an active undergraduate research program that extends from pre-freshman laboratory experiences as part of the Clark Summer Program  to the honors thesis that culminates the undergraduate career . Faculty members are provided financial assistance in support of undergraduate research, and student research summaries are displayed continuously in the lobby of the Green Center. Below are two examples of student research programs that have been successfully assessed to ensure continuous improvement.
In order to encourage and support undergraduate research in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM), a special program was initiated in spring 2005 by the NSM dean’s office to provide financial assistance to NSM laboratories at the level of $100 per semester credit hour (SCH) up to a $300 total per registered student per semester. These funds can be used in such areas as research supplies and student travel to professional meetings. The support is contingent upon receipt and satisfactory review of a one-to-two page summary of the research activities of the student (that is to say that the program is assessed by evaluating the written summaries). To date, $96,400, supporting 964 SCH of undergraduate research, has been awarded with the following distribution: biology-43%, chemistry-41%, physics-7%, geosciences-4%, and math-5%.
In the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), senior design courses provide a culminating design experience for senior engineering students. For each senior design course as well as a majority of special topics courses, the following materials are collected (the items below are stored and available in the course folder for each course): the instructor’s self assessment of the class using rubrics which are pertinent to the targeted program learning goals, the comment section of student course evaluation forms, and the course update form, which is filled out by the individual course owner and other stakeholders (teachers of the course). The assessment process in fall 2006 revealed an issue regarding the senior design project ; it was determined that, although senior design projects in general were of reasonably high quality, the documentation regarding the outcomes of the course was lacking and, more importantly, that a formal procedure for evaluation of senior design project course was lacking. The ECS faculty conducted several meetings in 2006 to formalize and improve the senior design project. These procedures are documented in The Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science Culminating Design Experience Proposal Guidelines . As a result of these assessments, several improvements were made which included implementing a formal process to monitor these key courses in all ECS programs every semester. The guidelines to which every proposal must adhere as well as the final reporting requirements are published online .
Finally, graduate students participate in all sorts of research activities at UT Dallas, not the least of which is writing dissertations. The graduate dean monitors the progress of the research; in 2006, there were 303 research assistants at UT Dallas . UT Dallas Policy Memorandum 76-III.25-4, Graduate Student Teaching Assistants and Graduate Student Research Assistants , documents various policies related to teaching assistants and graduate student research assistants. Research assistants are closely supervised by faculty and must demonstrate “satisfactory performance in and progress toward specified research assignments.” They undergo a performance review on a semester-by-semester basis. More information on the evaluations of research and teaching assistants can be found in the response to Principle 3.7.2 .